Masayoshi Takanaka

Masayoshi Takanaka

Masayoshi Takanaka is a famous Japanese guitarist and composer known for his blend of jazz, rock, and fusion music. Takanaka’s career began in the 1970s, and he soon gained fame thanks to his virtuoso guitar playing. Takanaka is known for his creative output, releasing one or more albums almost every year. His catchy melodies and live performances have made him a popular guitarist in the Japanese music scene and beyond.

Table of Contents

Early Life

Masayoshi Takanaka was born on March 27, 1953, in the Akabane ward, Tokyo, but moved to Oimachi, Shinagawa ward, Tokyo soon after. He had a Chinese father and a Japanese mother.

His father moved to Japan from Nanjing, China, after World War II and married Takanaka’s mother. Takanaka’s father had the surname Liu, and Masayoshi grew up as “Liu Zheng.” Masayoshi became a Japanese citizen in the fourth grade of elementary school and changed his name from “Masayoshi Liu” to “Masayoshi Takanaka.”

His parents ran a mahjong parlor called “Sangenkaku” in the downtown area in front of Oimachi Station in Tokyo.

Well, when he was a child, As a child, Masayoshi listened to The Beatles and The Ventures. He played guitar with his older brother, who is three years older. Later he moved on to Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Eric Clapton. He tried to imitate them. But the person he liked the most was Alvin Lee from Ten Years After.

Start of Career

Takanaka started his music career in 1970. At 17, he played guitar in The Evil.

In July 1971 Takanaka played backing at Okabayashi Nobuyasu’s “Okabayashi Nobuyasu Self-Written and Performed Concert: Crazy Bloom,” as a member of the “Yanagida Hiro Group.”

In August of the same year, he appeared at the rock event “Hakone Aphrodite” as a support for Shigeru Naruke and Hiro Tsunoda’s Strawberry Pass.

One month later he was invited by Tsunoda Hiro and the late Shigeru Naruke to join the prog-rock band “Fried Egg” as a bassist. Though he preferred guitar, he was made to play bass.

He learned music theory and guitar basics from Shigeru Naruke. He also worked as a studio musician through Naruke’s introduction.

Sadistic Mika Band

In 1972, after “Flyed Egg” disbanded, Takanaka joined Kazuhiko Kato’sSadistic Mika Band” as lead guitarist. At that time, the band consisted of Kazuhiko Katō (vocals, guitar), his wife Mika (vocals), Yukihiro Takahashi (drums), and Ray Ohara (bass).

On May 5, 1973, the band’s self-titled debut album was released. Harvest Records released it in the UK.

The band’s second album “Kurofune” was recorded in England and released on November 5, 1974. The album sold poorly but is now considered a milestone in Japanese rock. In September 2007, Rolling Stone Japan ranked it number 9 on their list of the “100 Greatest Japanese Rock Albums of All Time.”

In October 1975 the band performed live in the UK supporting Roxy Music on the European leg of their “Siren Tour,” including a show at Wembley Arena. This was the Japanese rock band’s first UK tour. They were well received by the local music press, including Melody Maker and New Musical Express, and performed on British television.

Despite Toshiba EMI planning a triumphant homecoming concert and the upcoming release of their third studio album, plans were canceled when vocalist Mika refused to return to Japan with the band.

The album “Hot! Menu” was released on November 5, 1975. The album was featured on BBC Radio 3’s Sounds Interesting program.

However, the Sadistic Mika Band disbanded that same month. The band broke up after two main members divorced (Kazuhiko and Mika).

Recordings of the “Roxy Music Tour” were released in July 1976 as the album “Live in London.”

In 1975, Takanaka formed the “Sadistics” with former Sadistic Mika Band members Yukihiro Takahashi, Tsugutoshi Goto, and Yutaka Imai. They released two studio albums and two live albums.

In 1976, Takanaka released his first solo album, “Seychelles.”

The “Sadistics” disbanded in 1978 as members focused on solo careers.

In 1985, “Sadistic Mika Band” reunited as the “Sadistic Yuming Band” to perform at the International Youth Anniversary All Together Now concert on June 15.

In 1989, the band reunited as the “Sadistic Mica Band.” On April 8, 1989, the album “Appare” was released. Its single “Boys & Girls” peaked at number 13 on the Oricon Singles Chart. On July 12, 1989, the live album “Seiten,” recorded at Tokyo Bay NK Hall, was released.

In 2006, the core members of the group teamed up with 22-year-old pop singer Kaela Kimura to form Sadistic Mica Band Revisited for a “Kirin Beer” commercial. This lineup, now called the “Sadistic Mikaela Band,” released the album “Narkissos” on October 25, which sold 92,568 copies and peaked at number 147 on the annual best-seller chart. The group also performed a concert at NHK Hall in Shibuya, Tokyo on March 8, 2007. Based on it, the live album “Live in Tokyo” was released on May 23, 2007.

Solo Career

After the Sadistics disbanded, Takanaka worked as a solo artist.

Through the ’70s and80s, Takanaka released over 20 albums and singles.

He released music on Kitty Records until 1984 and then on EMI from 1985 to 2000.

In 2000, he started his own record label, Lagoon Records.

Takanaka’s songs were listened to not only by fusion lovers but also by young people, who were reminded of summer and the sea by his melodies.

In 1979 he released the album “JOLLY JIVE,” which included his signature song “BLUE LAGOON,” and thereafter, he held a joint concert with Yosui Inoue at the Nippon Budokan, which led to his explosive popularity.

In 1981, he released the concept album “Rainbow Legend THE RAINBOW GOBLINS,” inspired by the picture book “Rainbow Goblins” by Italian artist Ul De Rico. And his large-scale live performance recreated the world of the album on stage.

In the same year, they won the 23rd Japan Record Award.

In 1982, his album “SAUDADE” reached number one on the Oricon Album Chart.

Then Takanaka began to shift from the tropical fusion style to dance music.

In the late 1980s, he traveled between Japan and Miami, USA, and began collaborating with Miami Sound Machine.

From the album “Fade to Blue” released in 1992, he toned down his dance style and returned to his old fusion style.

In the 2000s, after establishing his label “Lagoon Records,” he focused on producing and releasing live DVDs. Since 2000, he has toured the country every year.

Takanaka has collaborated on albums and performed live with artists such as Santana, Roxy Music, Lee Ritenour, Narada Michael Walden, Sheila E., and many others.

His song “Penguin Dancer” (1981) was sampled by Grimes in her song “Butterfly” in 2015.

Takanaka’s hit “Blue Lagoon” (1979) was named the 14th best guitar instrumental by Young Guitar Magazine in 2019.

His most famous work, “Rainbow Legend,” released in 1981, is a masterpiece that will remain in the history of Japanese instrumental music.

In one of his interviews, he explained why he decided to become an instrumental musician:

“I used to sing, but I’m not good at pitch. I’m tone-deaf. You can adjust the recording with a machine, but it’s obvious at a live performance. But lip-syncing is like fraud.”

Guitars

Throughout his long career, Takanaka has played a vast array of guitars. Among them, there were both fairly ordinary and the most insane models. He is particularly known for his love of Yamaha SG guitars.

In the early days, he played with a Gibson Les Paul Jr. and Fender Stratocaster. But from around 1976-77, he started using a Yamaha SG1000. It was a gift from Yamaha. It became his main guitar along with the Stratocaster, but Takanaka never actually signed an endorsement deal with Yamaha.

YAMAHA SG 1000RS Takanaka

Yamaha SG1000RS

The first Takanaka SG was a lacquered red sunburst SG1000, with the same specifications as the commercially available model. Later, the pickguard was removed and a pickup from ARP’s guitar synth “AVATAR” was installed in the center position. It was used in the recording of the famous “Blue Lagoon” song.

The second SG1000 was a small-head model. It has been seen since 1978.

Yamaha SG2000MT Takanaka

Yamaha SG2000MT

His main instrument is a signature “lagoon-blue” Yamaha SG2000MT, which he often plays during live performances. This is how he described the history of the guitar’s creation:

“The greenish-blue ocean I saw in Okinawa was so beautiful that I asked the manufacturer to make it that color. When it was finished, the blue was too strong, so I thought, “Oh well.”

The blue SG2000 was ordered for the “Yosui Inoue – Masayoshi Takanaka Christmas Connection Super Live!” held at the Nippon Budokan on December 23rd and 24th, 1979. The specifications were the same as the commercially available model.

In 1998, the first official model “SG-2000MT” was released as a replica of the Blue SG, limited to 220 units, but a slightly darker color than the original was specified. The name “SG2000MT” was used for the signature model released in 1998, and no other SG guitars by Takanaka have had a specific name since then.

Since the 2000s, he has switched between various guitars during live performances, but since this revival, the Blue SG has almost always been featured in the standard songs used for opening and closing.

In the late 1980s, the white SG2000 was created. There was no pickguard, so there were no holes for screws. Other specifications are the same as the 1980 commercial model. Later a Floyd Rose was installed.

In addition to this famous model, Takanaka used many other Yamaha SG guitars:

YAMAHA SG TAKANAKA PINK

Yamaha SG TAKANAKA-PINK

One of the earliest Takanaka guitars. You can see this guitar on the “SAUDADE” album cover.

Yamaha SG 1000 Rainbow

Yamaha SG 1000 Rainbow Goblin

In 1981, Masayoshi Takanaka released the two-disc album “Rainbow Legend,” and the live performance at Nippon Budokan that year remains legendary to this day. The sparkling rainbow-colored guitar was definitely a highlight. The “Rainbow Legend” guitar was also used during a joint concert with Carlos Santana at Yokohama Stadium in August of the same year. The guitar was manufactured in 1979. The guitar’s finish was applied over the original Red Sunburst.

Yamaha SG-T2 Rainbow 2 White Goblin

Yamaha SG-T2 Rainbow 2 White Goblin

White Goblin is a custom guitar specifically designed for Masayoshi Takanaka. It features a unique and colorful design that reflects Takanaka’s vibrant musical style. This guitar was used by Takanaka in 1997 during THE WHITE GOBLIN tour. It features an arched maple top, mahogany back, maple and mahogany neck, and ebony fingerboard. It includes SGH-3CC and LIVE-GS6 pickups with a bi-sound system.

Yamaha SG-T MASAYOSHI TAKANAKA Signature

Yamaha SG-T MASAYOSHI TAKANAKA Signature

The SG-T model has been a staple in Takanaka’s collection, used extensively in both live performances and studio recordings. This guitar can be seen in most of Takanaka’s performances.

Yamaha SG-T2 MASAYOSHI TAKANAKA Signature

Yamaha SG-T2 MASAYOSHI TAKANAKA Signature

There is very little difference in the appearance of these guitars (T and T2), although both were made in a clear dark blue, the T2 was also available in a clear red. The only difference between the two models is the pickups.

Yamaha SG-T3 MASAYOSHI TAKANAKA Signature

Yamaha SG-T3 MASAYOSHI TAKANAKA Signature

This SG premiered on September 14, 2003, in a live concert at the Hibiya Open Air Concert Hall.

After using the Yamaha SG2000MT for many years, Takanaka switched to a Fender Stratocaster. Here’s what he said about it:

“I got tired of it, and it just sat in the warehouse for years. I had been cheating on it with a Strat for a long time, but I pulled out the SG after a long time, re-fretted it, and repaired it. Then I liked it again and have been using it for the past few years.”

Takanaka was asked what the appeal of the SG is. Here’s what he answered:

“I guess you could say that the sound extends when you distort it. A Strat has a thin feel and is rather a clean sound, so I prefer to use compression and halftones. An SG is fine with a clean sound, but I like it because it distorts and produces a powerful sound that extends.”

Fender Stratocaster Sunburst

Fender Stratocaster Sunburst

You can see the old Stratocaster that Takanaka is holding on the cover of his second album “TAKANAKA.” It was given to him by Rokumonsen guitarist Shigeru Hara. He used it since his time with the Sadistic Mika Band, but even then, the body had the characteristics of a 1958 model, and the neck was made of maple from 1964. In recent years, the neck has become too difficult to maintain, so a new neck was made at a Japanese workshop, and then a new neck of the same specifications was made at the Fender Custom Shop and replaced. In 2007 was made “Masayoshi Takanaka Stratocaster,” a Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster based on this specification.

Fender Custom Shop TAKANAKA Stratocaster

Fender Custom Shop TAKANAKA Stratocaster

In 2007, the Masayoshi Takanaka Stratocaster, a Fender Custom Shop Strat, was released based on the above specifications. It was made by Master Dennis Galushka.

Fender Custom Shop TAKANAKA Stratocaster II

Fender Custom Shop TAKANAKA Stratocaster II

In 2014, the second signature model, the “Fender Custom Shop TAKANAKA STRATOCASTER II ~My Favorite Color of the Sea~,” was made and sold in a limited run of 50 units. It was also crafted by Dennis Galuszka.

Fender Stratocaster Jeff Beck Model

Fender Stratocaster Jeff Beck Model

This model was presented at the “Yuten Takanaka Super Live! 2005,” October 10, 2005, at the Hibiya Open Air Concert Hall. The guitar is an early JEFF BECK model. It was hand-painted by the artist Moghadam.

Fender Stratocaster Gold

Fender Stratocaster Gold

In an interview with The Japan Times, Takanaka revealed that the guitar actually belonged to Kazuhiko Kato and was given to him as a gift from an “Ikebe” music store.

Fender Jimmy Page Telecaster

Fender Jimmy Page Telecaster

Takanaka, in an interview, said that he purchased Jimmy Page’s signature guitar and performed with it at one of his concerts.

I also bought a Jimmy Page model with a weird picture on it. I played a few Zeppelin songs on that Jimmy Page model at a concert about three years ago. I borrowed it from Fender for a test run, and we decided to decide whether to buy it or not based on the amount of applause, so I played a few riffs from Zeppelin songs and said, “Clap, everyone.” “Who shouldn’t buy it!” clap… “Who should buy it!” they all clapped, so I bought it. I don’t use it anymore, though.

Other Takanaka guitars:

Gibson ES-335

Gibson ES-335

The Gibson ES-335 is a classic semi-hollow body electric guitar known for its warm and versatile tone. This guitar was used by Takanaka at the SUPER LIVE 2012 show “The Legend of TAKANAKA.”

Gibson Chet Atkins SST

Gibson Chet Atkins SST

The Gibson ES-335 is a classic semi-hollow body electric guitar known for its warm and versatile tone. You can see this guitar at Masayoshi Takanaka 1995 Live at Media Complex Studio in LA.

Godin Multiac Nylon SA

Godin Multiac Nylon SA

The Godin Multiac Nylon SA is a versatile and advanced nylon-string electric guitar. This guitar is particularly well-suited for genres that require expressive and percussive techniques, such as flamenco. This guitar can be seen in the video for the song “Oh! Tengo Suerte” 2000.

Ibanez X-ING IMG2010 Midi Electric Guitar

Ibanez X-ING IMG2010 Midi Electric Guitar

The Ibanez X-ING IMG2010 is a MIDI electric guitar, allowing for a wide range of synthesized sounds and effects. Takana played this guitar during the JUNGLE JANE TOUR in 1986.

CASIO PG-300 GUITAR SYNTH

CASIO PG-300 GUITAR SYNTH

A guitar synthesizer that allows for a wide range of electronic sounds. The sound of this instrument can be heard on the album “Nail the Pocket” and on the recordings of the “ONE NIGHT GIG” concert held at Kawasaki Club Citta in 1990.

Mosrite US Custom Shop Takanaka Masayoshi

Mosrite US Custom Shop Takanaka Masayoshi

A custom Mosrite model designed specifically for Takanaka. He played the song “WILD MOW-MOW” on this guitar during his performance at Takanaka Super Live 2010.

Here’s what he said about this guitar in his blog:


The sound is great, of course, but I’m always enchanted by the color and shape of this Mosrite.

Takanaka Surfboard Electric Guitar

Takanaka Surfboard Electric Guitar

The Takanaka Surfboard Electric Guitar, also known as the “Surfboard Guitar,” is a unique instrument designed by Masayoshi Takanaka. This guitar was custom-made to resemble a surfboard, reflecting Takanaka’s love for the ocean and surfing culture. It became one of Takanaka’s iconic instruments, often associated with his energetic performances.

You can see this guitar during the performance of the song “Beleza Pura” in 2008.

We talked about this guitar in detail in the article Masayoshi Takanaka Surfboard Guitar.

Custom Railway Stratocaster Diorama Guitar

Custom Railway Stratocaster Diorama Guitar

Masayoshi Takanaka is known for his love of model trains, and his hobby led him to make a strange guitar with a diorama of model trains. He first made a diorama on top of a dobro guitar in 2008. Then he decided to make a diorama with a Stratocaster. This guitar has a complicated shape because trains run while the guitar is held in the hand.

This guitar was made by railroad model artist Akihiro Morohoshi, just like the Dobro diorama guitar. The base for the guitar was a Fender Takanaka Signature Stratocaster. Mountains are built on Strat’s body, on both sides of which there are tunnels, between which a train runs.

Takanaka used it on the cover of his album “Natsumichi.” He played this guitar during the SUPER LIVE 2009 “Summer Road” Tour.

Fender Custom Lap-Steel Diorama Guitar (“Train Guitar”)

railway Takanaka guitar

Takanaka Masayoshi’s diorama guitar is a miniature model train set on the guitar’s body. Railroad tracks are laid out on the body of the Fender Resonator guitar, and the Bird Island Express, a train to his beloved island, runs on it. Turning the palm tree to the right increases the volume. There is a surfboard and a mountain bike in the back of the truck. You can see this instrument during the performance of the song “Left Alone” at the Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall on October 11, 2008 (SUPER LIVE 2008 “Southwest Wind” Tour). He also played this guitar during the SUPER LIVE 2009 “Summer Road” Tour.

Equipment

MESA BOOGIE MARK II A

This amplifier was used by Masayoshi Takanaka in 2001 on the albums “GUITAR DREAM” and “THE MAN WITH THE GUITAR”. That same year, it was used in the live performance“30th Anniversary POWER LIVE with friends” at Shibuya Public Hall the same year. The Mesa Boogie Mark II A is a classic guitar amplifier known for its powerful and versatile tone. It features a compact design with a 60-watt power output and multiple gain stages. The amp is particularly valued for its sustain and rich harmonic content.

Jim Kelley Custom Amp

In an interview, Takanaka said he used a Jim Kelley amplifier, that was custom-made for him in Los Angeles.

Fender Twin Reverb

Twin Reverb is an iconic guitar amplifier renowned for its clean, bright tone and ample headroom. It is a 100-watt tube amp with dual 12-inch speakers and built-in spring reverb and vibrato effects. This amp is a staple in various genres, from country to rock and blues, celebrated for its pristine sound and reliability on stage and in the studio.

Mesa Boogie Triaxis Guitar Preamp

Triaxis Guitar Preamp is a versatile guitar preamp offering a wide range of tones from clean to high-gain. The Triaxis is highly regarded for its flexibility and quality, often used to achieve a consistent and powerful sound.

Mesa Boogie Rectifier Head

Rectifier Head is a high-gain amplifier head, famous for its heavy, aggressive tone. It comes in various configurations, including the Dual and Triple Rectifier models, each providing powerful distortion and sustain.

Suhr Badger 30 Head

Takanaka used Suhr Badger 30 Head for some of his performances. It’s a 30-watt tube amplifier head known for its versatile tone and high-quality sound. It features power scaling technology to achieve louder sound at lower volumes.

MXR Dynacomp TAKANAKA Special

This effect was used by Masayoshi Takanaka in 2001 at “Liveteria” and the Shibuya Public Hall. The model was modified according to Takanaka’s preferences. The MXR Dynacomp is a classic compressor pedal used to smooth out the dynamics of a guitar signal, adding sustain and a polished sound.

Boss Goodrich Volume Pedal Model 120

Goodrich Volume Pedal is a high-quality volume pedal, that allows control output level smoothly. It is known for its durability and precise response. This pedal is often used to create volume swells and dynamic shifts in music.

Discography (Albums)

AlbumRelease Year
Seychelles1976
An Insatiable High1977
Takanaka1977
Brasilian Skies1978
On Guitar1978
Jolly Jive1979
Super Takanaka Live!1980
Finger Dancin’1980
T-Wave1980
Alone1981
The Rainbow Goblins1981
Ocean Breeze1982
Saudade1982
Can I Sing?1983
夏・全・開 (Open All Summer)1984
Traumatic1985
Jungle Jane1986
Jungle Jane Tour Live1986
Rainbow Goblins Story / Live At Budokan1986
Sweet Noiz Magic1987
Rendez-Vous1987
Hot Pepper1988
Gaps!1989
Nail The Pocket1990
One Night Gig1991
Ballade1991
Little Richard, Masayoshi Takanaka – Richard Meets Takanaka1992
Fade To Blue1992
Aquaplanet1993
Aquaplanet Special DJ Selection1993
Woodchopper’s Ball1994
Masayoshi Takanaka featuring Pauline Wilson – Covers1995
Guitar Wonder1996
The White Goblin1997
Niji Densetsu II – Live at Budokan (Time Machine to the Past)1997
Bahama1998
Walkin’1999
Hunpluged2000
The Man With The Guitar (Recorded At Liveteria)2001
30th Anniversary Power Live With Friends2001
Guitar Dream2001
The Moon Rose2002
2002 Live + Season’s Greetings!2002
Surf & Turf2004
Crossover Japan ’05 Live2005
Sadistic Takanaka2006
夏道 Natsudo (Summer Road)2009
軽井沢白昼夢 Karuizawa Daydream2010
Ukulele Seychelles2011
40年目の虹 40th Year Rainbow2011
Takanaka Sings2013
Super Studio Live!2014
My Favorite Songs2015
Super Live 2022 – Saudade 40th Anniversary2023